Search for new police chief to begin soon
If all goes as planned, the city of Hastings will have a new police chief by July.
Since current chief Mike McMenomy announced last month that he would be retiring at the end of May, city staff, council members and the three police commissioners have been busy figuring out how the process of hiring a new chief will work. At a recent public safety committee meeting, Hastings City Administrator Dave Osberg laid out the following timeline:
At its April 5 meeting, the city council will be asked to give its approval to begin advertising for the position. Those advertisements would go out Tuesday, April 6. The process would close April 23.
Interviews would be scheduled during the week of May 10. There will be two interview panels consisting of approximately five to seven people each. The panel will include council members, staff members, officers, business people and residents.
The field will be narrowed to three to four candidates, who would come in for a second round of interviews the week of May 20.
A leadership assessment and personality assessment will be performed. There will be an oral interview by a consultant and references will be thoroughly checked.
Osberg also made it clear at the meeting that he's hoping for the public to get involved in the process. To that end, he proposed an open house at which the candidates would be present and the community would be invited to attend.
By June 7, the city council will be asked to make its appointment of a new chief and by approximately July 1, the new chief should be on board.
That leaves a one-month gap between when McMenomy is leaving and when the new chief arrives. During the interim period, Osberg would be named the interim chief and he would handle the personnel decisions within the department during that time.
It appears likely that by the time a new chief comes on board, he'll report to a new boss.
Currently, the City Charter states that the mayor shall appoint the Chief of Police, with the approval of the City Council, as so governed by the Police Civil Service Commission Rules.
In the future, the police chief will likely answer to the city administrator, just like every other department head at the city.
The city council will handle the hiring and firing of all department heads, and the police chief would not be treated differently.
Osberg and assistant city administrator Melanie Mesko Lee researched the potential change, looking at approximately 35 other metro area cities with similar populations. Out of that group of cities, the only one that has its police chief report to the mayor is Hastings.
Two steps must be taken to bring Hastings in line with other communities.
First, the city charter illustrates the mayor is the head of the police department. Last night (Wednesday), the charter commission met to discuss the possibility of amending the charter to put the chief under the supervision of the city administrator.
Abolishment of the police civil service commission is under consideration. Once the council votes to recommend a new chief at its June 7 meeting, they will be asked if they want to abolish the commission and replace it with a police advisory commission. The new commission would have an advisory role, but would not make any of the final decisions relating to sworn officers and chiefs.
What is the police commission?
Some confusion has existed about what exactly the police civil service commission is.
First, it has three members. They are Judy Gilbert, Joe Drexler and Terry Sieben.
Second, the Mayor is the head of the Police Department, and the commissioners serve under him in an advisory role.
What do they do? The three members are "charged with the supervision of the employment, promotion, etc. over the sworn officers in the police department," according to the city's website.